Papus and the Russian court
When the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia paid a state visit to France in 1896 Papus seized the opportunity to present them with a message of welcome and self introduction, encouraged by the fact that there had ever been a keen interest in mystical traditions by the Romanov family throughout the 19th century, ranging from Martinism with Alexander I, through astrology with Alexander II, and spiritualism with Alexander III. Not forgetting Nicolas I’s patronage (for a time) of the legendary Wronski. The present Tsar had more intimate and immediate problems, including the need to produce a son and heir and to cope with a budding revolution, which led him to cultivate in turn Papus, Maïtre Philippe, and finally, in desperation, the ‘mad monk’ Rasputin.
The tone of Papus’ letter (too tedious to quote) can be judged by the concluding two paragraphs:
“It is because your Majesty rules a Western Empire, most truly religious and closest to the ways of Providence, that we salute his arrival to the land of France, which itself, amongst other interventions of Divine Providence, has merited Charles Martel, who began the work that Holy Russia is called upon to conclude, and Joan of Arc, who re-established our Country in the name of Heaven.
“May your Majesty deign benevolently to accept our welcome and may his Empire be immortalised by total union with divine Providence. Such is the dearest wish of those who pray your Majesty to accept our homage and deepest respect.
Director of ‘Initiation’ – Gérard ENCAUSSE (Papus) Doctor of Medicine of the Faculty of Paris, President of the Independent Group of Esoteric Studies, President of the Supreme Council of the Martinist Order, Delegate General of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross.
Papus certainly knew how to lay it on! And accompanied his message with presentation copies of l’Initiation; le Voile d’Isis; la Paix Universelle; l’Hyperchimie; Le Journal du Magnétisme; La Chaine Magnétique; Le Progrès spirite; Le Groupe indépendant d’études ésoteriques; L’Ordre Martiniste; L’École secondaire de Massage de Lyon.
And it brought its fruits. Helped by the influence of some Russian Martinists he was presented to Nicolas II in 1901 by the Tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke Nicolas, on the first of three visits to Russia, in 1901, 1905 and 1906. And until his death he remained in touch with the imperial family and the Court.
As President of the Supreme Council of his own Ordre Martiniste he founded a lodge at St Petersbourg of high dignitaries, of which the Tsar himself was probably President. Papus became greatly esteemed by members of the royal family, who gave him many presents, and even published a Russian language edition of his Traité élémentaire de Science occulte.
Indeed such was his prestige that the French ambassador to Russia, Maurice Paléologue, revealed in his memoirs an intriguing situation that almost beggars belief.
At the beginning of October, 1905, Papus was called to St Petersbourg by some of his highly placed supporters, who begged him to throw some light on a serious political situation. Military setbacks in Manchuria (possibly including sending truckloads icons to troops instead of weapons) had provoked civil unrest in many parts. The Tsar lived in a state of anxiety, harassed by conflicting and passionate advice from family, ministers, dignitaries, generals, and unable to choose between them. Some declared he had no right to renounce his ancient ancestral powers and must rigorously defend the status quo. Others urged him to recognise that the time had come to introduce a new constitution.
The very day that Papus arrived in St Petersbourg, terror spread in Moscow where a revolutionary syndicate proclaimed a general strike on the railways. (Film buffs may also recall events on the Odessa steps and at sea in Griffith’s early classic Battleship Potemkin.)
Papus was immediately summoned to the imperial palace at Tsarskoie-Sélo where, after a hurried consultation with the Emperor and Empress he set up a magical ritual for the next day. Apart from the royal couple no one else was present, apart from a young aide de camp, an army captain who later became governor of Tiflis. Allegedly by intense concentration of willpower and magnetic exaltation Papus was able to evoke the spirit of Alexander III, a keen spiritualist and father of the present Tsar.
Despite the fear that seized him in addressing this invisible being, Nicolas II asked his late father how he should deal with the new current of liberalism that menaced Russia.
The reply was unequivocal: “Whatever the cost, you must crush this present Revolution, even though it will rise again one day, more violent than its repression today must be. No matter! Take courage, my son! Do not give up the fight!”
While the royal couple tried to take on board this fearsome prediction Papus assured them that by his magical powers he could put off the predicted catastrophe as long as he remained ‘on the physical plane.’ He then performed the necessary rites.
As things turned out, Papus died at the end of October 1916 and the 1917 Revolution, that ultimately saw the end of the old Russia, broke out within three months. One can play about with various dates concerning all of this if one likes to play such mind games; it is made rather more numerologicaly complex by the fact that Russia still used the old Julian calendar, so all recorded dates of the period are 13 days behind the rest of the world.
At a more personal, perhaps cynical, level one might even consider Papus’ prediction to have been a form of insurance policy for his own safety, for along with Maïtre Philippe, he came under the close and hostile attention of both Russian and French secret police, who had no understanding of what this magical stuff was all about, and suspected the worst. After all, the Elizabethan magus Dr John Dee had had a reputation for combining occultism with espionage. And one hesitates to think what a combination of Harry Potter and James Bond might be like!
At another level, the wisdom of the advice of the deceased Alexander III might be questioned, if its first result was ‘Bloody Sunday’, on 9th January 1905 (old style), when a peaceful demonstration that tried to present a deputation to the palace was fired upon by the Imperial Guard, resulting in a thousand casualties, including two hundred deaths.
The event became of huge symbolic significance in that it was in commemoration of ‘Bloody Sunday’ that, twelve years later, the 1917 Revolution broke out that finally put paid to the Tsarist regime, with the murder of the Tsar and Tsarina and their four children a year later.